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Wednesday, 15 March 2000
Page: 12919

Senator Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade, upon notice, on 2 November 1999:

Is the Australian Government providing funding or government assistance through the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation or Austrade for the establishment of the following coal-fired power stations in the Asian region: (a) the Union Power Development Company station in Ban Kruat, Thailand; and (b) the Central Negros Power Station Corporation station in Pulupandan, Philippines; if so: (i) how much funding and what forms of assistance have been provided and/or promised, (ii) to whom has the funding or assistance been given, and (iii) when was the funding or assistance given.

(a) What environmental impact assessment has been done on either of these projects to investigate their environmental and social effects; and (b) has the Australian Government undertaken any environmental, economic or social assessment; if so, can a copy of the assessment be provided.

Has the Government undertaken any environmental assessments of `clean coal' that comply with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member benchmarks on pollutant and emission standards; (b) have these assessments examined claims made about clean coal regarding (i) releases of greenhouse gases, (ii) levels of coal ash, (iii) levels of sulphur dioxide, (iv) levels of nitrogen oxides, (v) levels of mercury fluoride, and (vi) levels of trace elements, released to the local environment; (c) who did the assessments; (d) what findings were made; and (e) can a copy of the reports be provided.

(4) (a ) How much funding was given to the Australian or Thai coal industry for the Australian Clean Coal seminar in Bangkok in April 1999; and (b) if no funding was provided directly to any industry bodies what, if any, government resources were devoted to support this or any other clean coal promotional projects in the Asian region.

Senator Hill (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade have provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) EFIC is not considering any facility in relation to the Union Power Development Company station. EFIC has had only preliminary discussions regarding financing of possible Australian exports to the Central Negros Power Station Corporation station project.

(2) Austrade has no record of grants being paid through the Export Market Development Grants scheme to the Union Power Development Company in Ban Kruat, Thailand or the Central Negros Power Station Corporation in Pulupandan, Philippines, or any other companies similarly named.

(3) EFIC: (a) In relation to the Thai project, not applicable. In relation to the Philippine project, not applicable at this stage. If the proposal were to proceed beyond the present preliminary stage, EFIC would of course assess possible environmental and social effects, and involve Environment Australia as necessary. (b) EFIC has not done any such assessment.

(4) Austrade has not been involved in environmental, economic or social assessment of these projects.

Not within the portfolio.

(4) (a) None from the portfolio.

(b) The Australian Embassy and the Austrade Office in Bangkok provided logistic assistance to the Department of Industry Science and Resources and the Joint Coal Board for the Australian Clean Coal seminar in Bangkok in April 1999.

In the current financial year (1999/00) AusAID funded a $65,000 project on clean coal technology, under the APEC support program. The project was called 'Environment Australia: A Workshop on Business Efficiency for the Environment: Clean Coal Technology in China' and will run from 1 August 1999-30 April 2000. This activity aims to conduct a workshop in China that would allow Australian and Chinese experts in clean coal technologies to present their experiences and technologies to an audience of up to 60 decision makers drawn from relevant Chinese government agencies and industries. The project will increase industry competitiveness by promoting the integration of best practice environmental management principles and eco-efficiency principles into standard operational procedure through the adoption of clean coal technology.

In recent years the following two projects have also received financial assistance from AusAID:

Department of Primary Industries and Energy: APEC Joint Project for Recovery & Utilisation of Methane Emitted from Coal Mining. Financial assistance provided: $150,000. The project ran from February 1996-February 1997. The project aimed to survey the level of the methane release in selected APEC member economies and to examine the possibility of utilising methane emitted by coal mining. Methane is a very damaging greenhouse gas. Phase 2 of this project did not go ahead resulting in a refund of $75,000 received 24 April 1998. Developing countries to benefit from this activity are all APEC developing member economies

UNDP/PACE Coal Technology Training Program (CTTP) Phase 2. Financial assistance provided: $2.2 million. The project ran from April 1996 - June 1999 The first phase of this program was completed in June 1995. The primary objective of Phase 2 was to provide developing countries in Asia with training required to ensure that they utilise coal in an environmentally responsible manner. The program aimed to train Asia's coal-burning industries in the technologies required to reduce their production of noxious and greenhouse gases to internationally acceptable levels.